The room was quiet when the orc slipped inside. She had waited for the druids to finish their healing and leave, and it was late enough that she didn't expect any other visitors. The tauren-shaped lump in the center of the room's single pallet was still, save for its shallow breathing. The orc sat cross-legged at the head of the pallet and looked at her friend.
The tauren looked terrible. Even in sleep, his eyes clenched and unclenched in pain. His fur was dull and dry and rasped against the bedding when he moved. This close, she could hear a faint wheeze in his labored breathing. The orc had never seen him look so bad. Her chest constricted painfully.
"Huh," she grunted. "Usually you're the talkative one. I don't know quite what to say." She huddled in silence, eyes never moving from her partner.
Finally she shifted, stretching out a leg and rolling her neck. "Do you remember," she croaked, cleared her throat, and tried again. "Do you remember the first time we went hunting Crust Bursters in Blade's Edge Mountains? The Cenarion Circle barely looked at the paperwork before approving them as a source of chitin." She huffed out a laugh. "Do you remember the heat? It was awful down in that valley. But we didn't want the mature ones, we wanted the little ones because their chitin was much more flexible."
She remembered the flat expanse of rust-colored rock, the tense wait for the slight vibration underfoot, the telltale pebbles bouncing and jumping as the underground worms approached. They had collected ravager parts for bait and strung them up one by one, waiting for the ungrown worms to surface.
"They came shooting out of the ground with their ridiculous too-short legs. And that one that couldn't find its way back underground! They should be grateful we put that one out of its misery. Do you know that was my first assignment back on the job, our first assignment together? I had been out of the game for a while, and you were pretty fresh as well. I admit to having some misgivings about your ability."
The orc leaned her head back against the wall. "Perhaps it doesn't count as a confession if you aren't awake to hear it. You could probably tell, anyway. I don't know if I was particularly friendly to you at the time."
The work had gone surprisingly easily. The wormlings would emerge from the ground, intent on the stinking ravager carcasses, only to find themselves snared in a continuously tightening trap. It was easy work for the orc to step in and end their suffering.
"I was very impressed by those traps you custom-made. I guess you developed that talent when you were still a hunter. Those traps made me reconsider my opinion of you. It made me think we might work well together."
They had been preparing the corpses, removing the chitin and gathering the remains for disposal when the real rumbling had begun.
"I had thought we were getting off lucky, but it never seems to work out that way for us, does it?" The orc shook her head, a half-smile on her face. "When that adult Crust Burster found us I thought I might have to sacrifice you to escape." She paused and looked guiltily at the tauren. "Kidding. Anyway, it was quick thinking on your part to toss all the leftover ravager parts away. I was still torn between all the chitin I was holding and the axe at my belt!" She shook her head again. "When I finally came to my senses you already had the wyvern ready to go, and we got away with most of the loot. I remember thinking, 'I have to work harder so he doesn't have to come to my rescue.' That's when I knew I wanted to work together again."
The room fell silent. There was no change in the tauren's breathing. Hesitantly, the orc smoothed the mane on her friend's forehead and stood.
"Spirits be with you," she said gruffly. She didn't look back as she left the darkened room.